Do Top Hospitals Have Libraries?

This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I have tweeted about it on #medlibs tweet chat. Every hospital is very proud (and rightfully so) to be listed as US News Top American Hospital and a lot of work goes into making those hospitals as good as they are. It is my belief that there are certain qualities unique to top hospitals that helps make them a top hospital. They have a certain infrastructure so to speak, that encourages education, innovation, and excellence. I believe part of that infrastructure of those hospitals is library (specifically the librarian) that help make the hospital be the best they can be and a top hospital.

I am not saying that every hospital that has a library is a top hospital. There are hospitals that aren’t top hospitals that have libraries. What I am thinking is that in order to be a top hospital you must have the necessary infrastructure, which includes libraries. My guess is that at least every hospital listed in the top ten have a library but the Top Hospitals list is over 900 institutions long in many specialties, so who knows how many in that large group have a librarian.

US News and World Report states “death rates, patient safety, and hospital reputation were a few of the factors considered,” for the top hospitals. I want to know more. What goes into making a top hospital a top hospital and are there libraries in each one? There is a phrase, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” (I would also say the phrase can be flipped to say behind every great woman is a great man too.) I want to know if the same applies to hospitals. Behind every great hospital is a librarian.

Originally my idea was to look at the Top Hospitals and determine whether they have a librarian. I also wanted to do more than just make it an attendance sheet. After all librarians do more than just show up, they support their hospital’s endeavors and mission. How do I quantify that? (Oh the question we always ask.) Well I assume that a top hospital in a certain specialty probably employs the thought leaders in that specialty and as thought leaders they would have published a about their specialty. So my thought was to take a specialty like cardiology, look at all the hospitals and determine if they have a librarian and how much they are publishing on that broad topic. I realize that isn’t perfect but it was an idea.

As much as I want to look at the Top Hospital list and try and see if they have librarians helping the hospitals be the best, it is a huge project and I am certain there are better ways to do it or better measures. Finding research is my specialty, conducting research is not. However I know there are a lot of librarians and non-librarians out there who are good at doing research. So, I am practicing what I preach, I am reaching out through social media about my research idea. I don’t care if you want to help and have a better way of doing it or if you want to do the whole thing on your own and “scoop me.” I think proving that good librarians are a necessary part of a Top Hospital is very important, I don’t care who/how it is proved.

13 thoughts on “Do Top Hospitals Have Libraries?”

  1. I am proud to say #10 on the list (UPMC – Pittsburgh, PA) has a librarian because it’s ME! 🙂

    Heidi P.

  2. You could have a computer randomly select a smaller sample of institutions. I don’t know what percentage is most acceptable, but if you evaluated 1 in 5, at random, that would give you an idea of librarian presence.

    I agree that you should distinguish between library/librarian presence. For each of the 120 or so institutions chosen, you could note number of full time MLSes.

  3. I think it is a great idea for research. Maybe this search can help when cross-checking hospital names/addresses … or maybe it needs tweaking, you would know best 😉
    I would be interested to check this for European top hospitals… so keep me in the loop!
    best regards,

  4. This is a great project. Not currently employed as a medical librarian.
    Hoping all have something to contribute will have time to contribute to this great project.

  5. Yes, I’ve wondered this myself. Do the Top Hospitals have libraries? librarians? If not, how do they obtain their information?
    How many of the Top Hospitals are affliated with universities and medical schools? How many have residency programs?

    Great topic for study!

  6. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time too, and was daunted by the enormity of data collection. I would be very interested in working on a project, and potentially writing a grant to fund the research.

  7. The question of whether those high ranking hospitals have a medical librarian is just the tip of the iceberg. What is that medical librarian’s audience? Budget? Political/administrative ties/affiliations? Our medical school doesn’t own its affiliated hospitals, though some sure are very top ranking in their specialty areas. Some of the librarians at those affiliated hospitals actually are consumer health librarians, &/or serve hospital staff who have no medical school affiliation (may not be able to access our licensed resources). And the dollars and information resources also may not be paid for by the hospital library. Then there are the hospital librarians who are part-time…A can of worms, but good luck with that research, or finding someone who has done some work into this. And this ranking list is subjective, many say.

  8. I have been thinking about this as well as we have noticed more hospital libraries closing. It goes back to what I call the domino effect (I will be posting about this soon). If even 1 of the hospitals listed as a top hospital did not have a library and/or librarian then will this be seen by the other hospitals who will then say “Well if they can be a top hospital without a librarian then why do we need one?” Unfortunately, this is all too often what happens. It creates a cascading domino effect that does not currently have any regulations to stop it.

    More to come on this topic and definitely one that needs to be researched further.

  9. You may also want to distinguish if you are looking at adult hospitals or pediatric hospitals. And what the purpose of the library is. I’m a medical librarian in a pediatric hospital, but our libraries are built for the patients and their families (consumer health information, leisure books, etc). We do perform research for staff, but it’s not our main service because we are affiliated with a separate teaching hospital and most staff use their medical library.

  10. Hi. I am about to start my MLIS program, and have been thinking about thesis topics, and this is similar to one area that I have bounced around in my head. I do know that I would like to go the health sciences librarian route. In this type of direction, I was personally curious about if there is a relationship between a hospital library, its budget, and how many research articles are asked for by the hospital’s employees. I also wanted to tie these factors into how they relate to urban versus rural medical library’s. I would be curious then, how the usage of a library relates to how it is “rated” by such a list as the one that you mentioned… i.e., do top hospitals USE their library’s as much as other hospitals? I have alot of experience using data/statistics, and would love to be able to collect such data on a decent number of hospitals to analyze….

  11. Emailed Krafty with this uppermost in my mind when US News last published; Will certainly do the work of contacting those hospitals to ask 1)have a physical library 2)MLS employed if someone would write it up. Also think it would be interesting to see what online resources those institutions without libraries/librarians offer or ILL options if someone can suggest a succinct means not only to get the info but also to present such. Methodology proposed also includes checking DOCLINE institutions & NNLM offices to confirm insitutional responses.
    I chose Krafty for the proposal as I have followed the blog since inception and intuition says she/it is the best venue for such.

  12. Looks like there are fewer hospitals to check:

    “U.S. News surveyed nearly 10,000 specialists and sifted through data for approximately 5,000 hospitals to rank the best in 16 adult specialties, from cancer to urology. Death rates, patient safety, and hospital reputation were a few of the factors considered. Only 148 hospitals were nationally ranked in one or more specialties. The Honor Roll features the 17 that scored near the top in at least six specialties.”

    Seems like it wouldn’t be all that difficult to check the status of 148 hospitals to see what their library situation is like. 148 sounds a lot less daunting than Krafty’s original mention of over 900 institutions. Sounds like a great research project for a MLIS student interested in medical libraries or a part-time medical librarian who is itching to sink his or her teeth into a project, the outcome of which could benefit the rest of us who are watching hospitals close their libraries and/or ax the medical librarian’s position.

    ~ Kitty ~

  13. I believe that you could look in Docline to see if they are listed as a lender. If so, they have a library. It would not be difficult to check the top 10. If you wanted to include every specialty, that could be cumbersome.

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